updated 05:40 pm EST, Wed February 3, 2010
Amazon may have bought Touchco
Amazon has bought small startup to bring touchscreens to the Kindle, a purported insider said today. The bookseller is believed to have bought Touchco to roll it into Lab126, the same division responsible for Amazon's e-book reader. Conditions for the deal weren't mentioned to the NYT in the leak, and neither of the involved partners has agreed to comment.
The six-person firm has been developing a pressure-sensitive multi-touch system that has all the sensitivity of a capacitive touchscreen, like that of the iPad but with different behavior depending on the force applied. It would also recognize an unlimited number of contact points and could recognize other parts of the hand as well as non-organic objects.
Amazon's purchase is likely to be a reaction to the launch of the iPad and an attempt to guard its current dominance of e-book reading with the Kindle. A handful of touchscreen e-readers are either shipping or are coming soon, such as iRex's line, the Sony Reader Daily Edition, the Entourage eDGe and the Plastic Logic QUE, but none of these support multi-touch. The iPad as such promises to be the first true multi-touch e-reader and has the advantage of an already developed touchscreen interface.
How soon a touchscreen would be available isn't known. Touchscreen e-paper is feasible today but is usually limited to relatively slow tasks like single-press interface elements or note taking.
Amazon has been under distinct pressure to compete and lately has been engaged in pricing disputes that, among other things, have led to it offering a much more favorable revenue split to publishers that keep prices low and use the full Kindle feature set.